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This summer has marked the beginning of the Classical Education Graduate Program and a partnership between the University of Dallas and Great Hearts Academies, a public charter system of academically rigorous, classical, liberal arts K-12 schools.
This innovative 36-credit-hour graduate degree (also offered in a certificate format)
offers an opportunity for teachers, headmasters and others to engage in the ethos
of classical education as they hone their teaching expertise.
Associate Professor and Department Chairman of English Greg Roper, Ph.D., was an early advocate of the program.
“I’ve been interested in the Great Hearts schools for a while,” said Roper. “We’ve sent many of our best students to teach at Great Hearts schools, and they send students here.”
Deep ties run between the University of Dallas and Great Hearts. Many UD families are also Great Hearts families. In fact, Roper has a son attending one of the Great Hearts schools.
“While writing a blog about the degradation of my sons’ public schools, I saw the value of this new movement in classical education,” said Roper. “Great Hearts has a wonderful way of taking students who are dedicated to the vision and teaching them on the job, in the old apprentice method, how to do the teaching part. They want to move on to the master’s level, and I think we’re the perfect place to do that.”
Ron Bergez, a current student in the Classical Education Graduate Program, is no stranger to classical education — nor to the University of Dallas. The father of two UD alumni, Bergez was excited to experience for himself a slice of the school his children attended.
“What I've always wanted is to keep feeding my mind and becoming better at my craft,” Bergez said. “I've been able to do some of that on my own, but I've long wanted to pursue an advanced degree to enhance my understanding of what I teach and how I can teach it better.”
Bergez has taught humanities subjects such as history, English, French and religion to grades 6-12 for 26 years, primarily in private and now charter schools. After an interval away from teaching, he decided to return to the classroom when Tempe Preparatory Academy — born of the same academic model as Great Hearts — was founded. Bergez spent 16 years at Tempe Prep, also serving two years as headmaster and one as dean of students.
“I think there will prove to be a stronger and more fruitful connection with my students if I can participate in the learning experience in the way they do — not only for the empathy engendered by studying and meeting deadlines as they have to, but because a teacher should always be a learner, anyway — and the faculty at UD will bring my learning to a level way beyond whatever I can do for myself,” said Bergez.
Bergez is currently taking two courses in the Classical Education Graduate Program; the first is History of Liberal Arts Education, taught by Associate Professor of History Susan Hanssen, Ph.D.
“Dr. Hanssen's passion for history revivifies my own attraction to it,” said Bergez. “She demonstrates connections among even seemingly disparate events that create new levels of understanding of the patterns underlying human activity; in doing so she reaffirms that history is a combination of separately fascinating individual strands of human decision, woven in a pattern ultimately comprehensible but always too large to take in at once, or even over a span of years — which is thrilling. Her delight in teaching itself makes me feel privileged to be a teacher.”
The second course Bergez is tackling this summer is Teaching Classical Children’s Literature, taught by Affiliate Assistant Professor of Modern Languages Laura Eidt, Ph.D.
“Dr. Eidt has opened up for me new perspectives in the field of children's literature,” said Bergez. “Her knowledge of the field is profound, and the placing of these stories in the context of the times in which they were written, and within the development of literary tradition, renews the sense of connection between history and the arts — something I find fascinating.” With classes available both onsite and online during both the summer and the academic year, students like Ron Bergez are able to draw from a wide range of resources in pursuit of the revitalization of today’s education system.
“I think we need to feed this movement,” said Roper. “We are the place that can provide teachers with this next step in their education.”
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